Turns out, managing your own circle of hell in a satirical cartoonish world, providing basic services for sinners and historic villains so they can survive, in order to torture them for eternity is really fun. Like losing track of time for five or six hours straight fun.
Hell Architect is a base building, resource management game about managing hell. Developed by Woodland Games and published by Leonardo Interactive, Hell Architect takes an interesting approach towards the genre with a unique theme and delivers a great experience both in gameplay and aesthetics.
Before we start, as you can guess from the title or the images, the game includes a lot of violence and nudity. While the characters are cartoonish and the violence unrealistic, and you can disable nudity and blood in the settings (which are great options to have), the nature of Hell Architect still might be uncomfortable for some players. So keep that in mind before reading this review or purchasing the game.
I started the game, and... I know this might seem like I'm nit-picking over small details, but the game's main menu is confusing. The first option is a poorly greyed-out Continue button, followed by Load Game. So the two top options are basically useless for a new player. The button that a new player wants is probably Tutorial, which is fourth on the list. I know it's not a big deal, but it seemed like an odd order to me.
After I got over the initial confusion of navigating the menu, I started the tutorial. And the first thing that I notice, is the brilliant voice acting of the devil instructing me what to do. I wasn't expecting voice acting at all, let alone it being this good, and it kept getting better as I played more. At one point I thought I recognized one of the voices from the Rick and Morty series. I was proven wrong when I looked up the name of the voice actors from the credits, but I think it shows the level of quality that I'm talking about.
There are three tutorial levels, and they perfectly explain how the game works in three different missions. The devil, named Frank, acts as an instructor and you are a rookie to whom he has to show the ropes to. Fans of resource management games might know the drill, but I think the game is gonna appeal to a larger audience, and having a fun tutorial that is not just a block of text, but a great part of gameplay, was a good start to Hell Architect.
Hell Architect takes an interesting approach towards resource management. You can order the sinners to mine for materials, construct and work in production buildings to provide food and water, place beds for them to rest, and finally, torture them to collect "Suffering". These suffering points are the most important resources for progressing through the game, and the rest are basically for sustaining a high number of sinners. In a way, the people themselves are the most important resource in Hell Architect, and it's a really fun and evil interpretation of the genre.
There are a lot of different foods and drinks that you can produce, and tons of torture devices that get crueler and weirder as you get to the later stages. We start with the basic medieval torture devices such as racks and boiling cauldrons and then unlock fun and bizarre devices such as a spider tank or an endless falling pit. A playthrough in the sandbox in which you unlock and build every type of building can take upwards of three hours.
Each sinner has certain traits, and based on them they can be better at certain jobs or provide more suffering with certain torture devices. There are also legendary sinners, who can be unlocked through a special building. These legendary sinners are famous historical figures such as Hitler, Billy the Kid, Jack the Ripper, Madam Bathory, and more. These special sinners have certain auras that can affect others around them. These options add a welcoming layer of micromanagement to the gameplay, that encourages you to place each sinner or legendary sinner in the most beneficial place on the map.
After the tutorial, I went through the missions in the Scenario mode, and this is where I was introduced to even more characters with awesome voice acting, followed an interesting story as I rose in the ranks of devils, and explored special and strange corners of the hell, especially a pink map filled with Hello Kitty-like decorations that annoyed the hell out of the devils! Again, I wasn't expecting this level of storytelling in a resource management game, and I was pleasantly surprised.
The visuals of the Hell Architect are just adorable. From the detailed arts in the menu and loading screens to the Happy Tree Friends-like violence of torturing the sinners, it felt like I was watching a very high-quality animation from Adultswim. The only aspect of the game that wasn't at the same level of quality was the UI. At the start, the UI seemed way too small, and while we can increase its scale in the settings, doing so will cause some of the UI elements to overlap with each other and become unreadable. As with any other resource management game, UI is a pretty important element, so a bit of polish can go a long way towards making the game more enjoyable.
After finishing the scenario mode, I was really bummed that it was over. I wanted more, and while the sandbox is a fun endless mode and you can challenge yourself with different difficulties, it felt awfully quiet without the different devils bantering over each other. Hell Architect provides a hilarious setting, with funny and different characters and voices, and great gameplay. The scenario mode is the best part of the game, and the worst part of it is that I wanted more. As an architect myself, I never knew being the architect of hell was gonna be this much fun!
Nima reviewed Hell Architect on PC with a code provided by the publisher.